Book: Brian Hill
Music and Lyrics: The Sherman Brothers
New Songs and Additional Music and Lyrics: Neil Bartram
Director: Jamie Harrison and Candice Edmunds
Bedknobs and Broomsticks, a classic Disney musical, has finally made its way onto the stage and is currently ‘bobbing along’ on a very extensive UK tour. This mounting is a beautiful adaptation of the 1971 film whilst not being a carbon copy. The heart and essence of the film is there, hitting enough nostalgia points, whilst being an incredibly innovative and creative production. The Sherman Brothers’ score is lovely, although perhaps not as memorable as some of their others. The new songs from Neil Bartram are nice in context and Negotiality is very fun, although you don’t find yourselves singing many of the songs once you leave.
Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison direct the piece and their direction is truly beautiful. A lot of the show is very simple storytelling and traditional stagecraft, with a healthy dose of spectacle as one would expect from this particular musical. The opening sequence is particularly wonderful to watch. Jamie Harrison also designed the illusions which are all impeccably executed. There are many that one simply cannot work out- and if that wasn’t enough, he is also the set designer! The set is great with lots of moving parts to it but at times, the stage can feel a little cluttered. Simon Wilkinson must get some credit for helping bring the magic to life with his lighting design. Gabriella Slade’s costume design is fantastically colourful, whilst in-keeping with the time period.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks has an all-star ensemble cast and this is a production that really relies on its insanely talented ensemble. Mark Anderson as Sherman (a Bear), Emma Thornett as Angela (a Bird) and Matthew Elliot-Campbell as King Leonidas (a Lion) all really sell their parts. The puppetry is outstanding. In the absence of Rob Madge, Nathaniel Morrison took on the role of Norton, a Fish. His voice is a delight to listen to and he has a great stage presence. Jacqui DuBois is great as Mrs Hobday and her moments really help route the magical story in reality. Susannah van den Berg demonstrates her excellent comic timing as Mrs Mason, amongst other parts.
The leading cast for this musical is terrific. Conor O’Hara is just brilliant as Charlie Rawlins, the oldest child. Despite him definitely not looking 13, his performance is endearing and he really portrays the character’s journey throughout the piece brilliantly. His vocals are strong and his rapport with the two younger children was great. Dexter Barry gives a really strong performance as Paul Rawlins, alongside Poppy Houghton who really gets to show off her amazing voice as Carrie Rawlins.
Dianne Pilkington plays Miss Eglantine Price, the role made famous by Angela Lansbury. Her voice is rich with a stunning soprano range and a powerful belt. Her characterisation is spot on – there is enough familiarity, giving us the moments from the film we love, whilst also putting her own stamp very firmly on the role. Alongside her, at this particular performance, was Sam Lupton as Professor Emelius Browne. He is absolutely tremendous in the role. He is funny, his chemistry with Pilkington is completely believable and his voice is wonderful to listen to.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is true the ‘magical musical’ the poster claims it to be. With a tremendous cast packed to the brim with West End stars, and a handful of newcomers who also give stunning performances, as well as a beautiful set and great production values, it really makes a delightful family night out.
Runs until 30th October 2021